Against the background of Russia’s recent military buildup along Ukraine’s border, the European Union needs to use its strengths and avoid sanctions against Russia, which today do not yield the desired result or have a counterproductive effect.
This was said in an article by Michael Emerson, an associate research fellow at the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS).
According to the expert, the European Union should be active in three main areas, where there are powerful opportunities:
- Support for Ukraine’s European integration. Ukraine’s membership in NATO and the EU is out of reach, but against the background of Russia’s aggression, the European Union can expand cooperation within the framework of Ukraine’s Association Agreement and Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area. Steps in this direction would help Ukraine gradually move closer to integration, improving the fight against corruption and ensuring the rule of law. At the same time, such a position allows avoiding the risks of premature EU enlargement.
- Vaccines for Ukraine. One of the priorities for supporting Ukraine should be the arrangement of sufficient vaccine supplies to stop the pandemic and help the Ukrainian economy to recover fast. Ukraine has been able to secure only small supplies of vaccines, rejecting recourse to Russia’s Sputnik V. Part of the reason for the very limited supplies reaching Ukraine is that the EU has been procuring massive supplies of vaccines in excess of its own needs. With the United States and the United Kingdom doing the same, this puts supply capacities out of reach for more weakly placed buyers.
Given its huge contracted orders, the EU could now pledge to supply 100 million doses (i.e. under 2% of its total) to its close European neighbours in the Western Balkans and Eastern Partnership states. Ukraine could expect to receive almost half of this total, permitting effective vaccination of around half of its population.
- On the energy front. With a serious effort of diversification, the EU could do without Russian gas, which would damage Russia’s finances. In particular, it is possible to create a European Supplementary Strategic Gas Reserve (ESSGR), develop new discoveries in the Eastern Mediterranean, as well as increase LNG supply chain capacities. In addition, against the background of Russia’s latest aggressive actions, EU institutions and other member states should urge Germany to finally stop the Nord Stream 2 project.